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Total Nerd

12 Movie Villains Who Couldn't Stay Villains Because They Were Too Cool

List Rules
Vote up the characters that were just too cool to keep rooting against.

Every good protagonist has an equal and opposing antagonist(s). A good villain should be just as complex as the hero, with an empathetic backstory, dynamic personality, and played by a charismatic actor. They should steal scenes. Their presence imposing upon the hero and audience. Think Captain Barbossa lending swagger and gravitas to his crew of undead misfits in Pirate of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl or Loki stealing Thor’s thunder before being the most memorable Avengers villain. 

The Catch-22: Once you create a spectacular villain, they become a character we love to hate. They end up being so well-liked by the audience - or otherwise too sympathetic - to stay villains, so they are gradually softened into antiheroes or even full-fledged good guys. Sometimes villains don’t even deserve this thematic badge of honor. The "bad guys gone good" trope has applied to countless villainous individuals (largely from franchises) either in a single sequel or many. The following characters were villains when they first appeared, but have since been redeemed. Vote up the baddies that were just too cool to stay bad.

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  • Loki, The Marvel Cinematic Universe 
    Photo: Thor: Ragnarok / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    Tom Hiddleston never actually auditioned to play Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, originally going in for the title character of 2011’s Thor. For obvious reasons, Chris Hemsworth won Mjölnir, but the studio saw mischief in Hiddleston. His charismatic tenure as the god of mischief has captivated audiences from the get-go.

    As the adoptive son of Odin, Loki always felt that ruling was his birthright. Aided by his insecurities, greed, and narcissism, Loki manipulates everyone and everything. His desire to be worshipped prompts him to target Earth in 2012's The Avengers. Loki's misdeeds lead to his incarceration in Thor: The Dark World. Throughout that film and Thor: Ragnarok, he comes to appreciate his relationship with Thor - the one honest thing he has in the universe. Loki's banter/bond with his brother leads to his quasi-redemption at the end of Ragnarok

    Unfortunately, in Avengers: Infinity War, Loki meets his demise at the hands of Thanos, but not before sacrificing himself in an attempt to save his brother and what remains of Asgard. Thanks to Hiddleston and Loki’s popularity, Avengers: Endgame hit the reset button, allowing the villainous character to appear in Disney+’s Loki series.

  • Nebula, The Marvel Cinematic Universe 
    Photo: Guardians of the Galaxy / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    In Guardians of the Galaxy, Nebula is introduced as an adoptive daughter of Thanos (alongside Gamora). Growing up, Thanos would pit Gamora and Nebula against one another, with Gamora always winning in their duels. Every time Nebula lost, her father would replace a part of her with machinery (to improve her). This process was excruciating for Nebula and only fueled her hatred for Gamora. Despite this torment, Nebula never lost the desire to please her father (mostly out of fear). Even so, Nebula jumps at the opportunity to betray her father in the first film. 

    In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Nebula attempts to eliminate Gamora on multiple occasions. However, when Gamora bests her once again, Nebula expresses resentment toward Gamora’s indifference growing up; all Nebula ever wanted was a sister. This is a turning point for Nebula as she begrudgingly becomes a member of the Guardians. In Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, she’s very much on the side of the Avengers - although she’s still vicious and hilariously mechanical both in physicality and personality.

  • Magneto, The 'X-Men' Franchise
    Photo: X-Men: Days of Future Past / 20th Century Fox

    One of the greatest elements of the X-Men franchise, on the page and screen, is the ideological schism between Professor X and Magneto. Originally friends, Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr advocated for mutant rights. After being targeted by the Third Reich, Magneto succumbed to his disillusionment (and lack of patience), which morphed him into a militant individual, waging conflict against the humans as opposed to working toward equity. There are times when Magneto even starts to make sense.

    When his way of doing things ends in disaster (the deterioration of civilization itself), Magneto comes to see that Professor X was right. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, an older Magneto (played by the inimitable Ian McKellen) works alongside the X-Men. That said, Michael Fassbender did more than an adequate job of making the younger version of the character just as likable, conflicted, and complex as did McKellen.

  • T-800, 'The Terminator' Franchise
    Photo: Terminator 2: Judgment Day / TriStar Pictures

    Arnold Schwarzenegger's role as the T-800 in The Terminator made the Austrian a household name. He went on to star in a number of the biggest action movies of the '80s and '90s, each time bringing his unique brand of testosterone and cheese. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a reprogrammed version of the T-800 is sent back in time to protect John Connor (as opposed to preventing his conception/birth in the first movie).

    In arguably one of the greatest action movies ever made, Schwarzenegger plays the T-800 as a machine learning what it means to be human - a far cry from the secular killing machine he was the first time around. Ever since, the T-800 has been on the protective side (not including the Terminator Salvation cameo), protecting the Connors in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Genisys, and, more recently, the heroes of Terminator: Dark Fate.